“Spider-Verse” won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. courtesy Buzzfeed

Success of “Spider-Verse” marks 2018 as the Spider-Year

In a major upset, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” swept the Oscars and box office.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was likely 2018’s biggest surprise success, and its Oscar win was the cherry on top for the best year the webslinger has had in a while. Despite the fact that DC has consistently put out great animated features for years, American audiences prefer their superhero movies made by Marvel and to be in the CGI’d live-action format. “Into the Spider-Verse” checks one of those boxes, but it is far from live-action or even the now-conventional animation style of Pixar.

Instead, it used a harder edged style that brought out the depth of each and every shot. This diversion from the animation norm, along with the fact that the film introduced the often wonky multiverse that plays such a key role in many of the Spider-Man comic stories while the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is just now getting around to the Infinity War storyline, meant that “Into the Spider-Verse” was going to have to receive a rip-roaring response if it was to be in the discussion with more conventional animated or superhero movies.

“Into the Spider-Verse” not only blew up at the box office but also went on to get nominated and win the Academy Award for Best Animated Best Feature. Additionally, it grossed $185 million domestically and $326 million worldwide, according to IMDb. That was more than enough for Sony to begin production on a both a sequel and a spin-off with the potential for more if those run smoothly. However, all of this success did not guarantee Oscar gold.

Even after “Into the Spider-Verse” received the nomination for Best Animated Feature, it had to go up against “Incredibles 2” (with Disney’s six-year streak at winning the award) and “Isle of Dogs” (directed by human Oscar-bait Wes Anderson). Still, the part-origin story, part-interdimensional battle to save the multiverse won the Oscar, cementing its place in film history while also marking an incredible year for the character of Spider-Man in general.

Spider-Man began the year by playing a key role in the most-awaited ensemble blockbuster of all time when Tom Holland played Peter Parker in “Avengers: Infinity War.” Though “Infinity War” included the major heroes from all of the MCU’s films, Spider-Man played a major role in his meager seven-and-a-half minutes of screen time. Holland’s ability to play into Spider-Man’s comic relief meant that despite the stakes of “Infinity War,” the film was still peppered with Peter’s witty humor — which is basically well-written dad jokes and a lot of pop culture references (evidently too many for Iron Man).

SPOILER ALERT! Spider-Man did not make it out of the movie alive and was instead, along with half of the universe’s population, decimated by Thanos’s snap of a fully-loaded Infinity Gauntlet. That set up maybe the most emotional scene in the MCU as Peter (having felt the snap coming earlier than most due to his Spider-sense) disintegrated in the hands of his mentor and superhero father figure Tony Stark. The film marked the best earning project involving Spider-Man up until that point, but like “Into the Spider-Verse,” the next media that featured the webslinger would be a groundbreaking one.

After having been announced over two years ago, the “Spider-Man (PS4)” game, which stands independent of all cinematic storylines, got nominated for Game of the Year and reminded fans that standalone superhero video games are worth buying. When “Arkham Asylum” came out in 2009, it changed the state of gaming. Up until that point, superhero video games were almost always tied directly to a movie and almost always lackluster, but “Arkham” was a financial and critical success that spawned two sequel games and a prequel.

“Spider-Man (PS4)” is “Arkham’s” spiritual successor in three ways: its story is tied to no films despite there being “Spider-Man” films constantly in production, it is willing to play with the hero’s story without deviating from the too well known backstory and the gameplay does a good job of capturing the best parts about the hero. Despite adoration by fans and getting a Game of the Year nomination, “Spider-Man” lost out to the likes “God of War” and “Red Dead Redemption 2.” If people were disappointed with the game’s lack of awards (I was), it shows just how unlikely it was for “Into the Spider-Verse” to win how it did.

By ending Disney’s stranglehold on the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars, “Into the Spider-Verse” acted as an incredible finale to what we can look back on as the Spider-Year. Its witty humor, compelling origin story/ies and entertaining action made for one of the year’s best films. There is an argument to made that it should have also been given a Best Picture nomination, but that can take a back seat for now. More important is that the film fits into this pattern of groundbreaking Spider-Man content that defined 2018 and likely laid the groundwork for all animation studios going forward. That is where the legacy of this movie really lies. Its influence will likely reverberate in the American animation world until long after its own series has concluded.

Post Author: Chris Lierly